A light yodel, Jane Bowron

The Topp Twins Book
Jools and Lynda Topp
Penguin Books, $29.95,
ISBN 0143018604

The Topp Twins book is an absolute must for Topp Twins’ fans and an absolute miss for those with no more than a passing acquaintance with the Topp Twins phenomenon. This slight and breezy autobiography details the twins’ rural childhood near Huntly (with hilarious anecdotes about Tikes on Trikes), their brief stint in the army at Burnham military camp, and their breakthrough into big time busking in Queen Street (Auckland) where they literally stopped traffic. It can be knocked off in under an hour.

Sure, there are 128 pages, but most of these are plastered with photographs of the twins in their various “guyses” (Ken & Ken, Private Parts and General Motors) and “girlses” (Camp Leader and Mother, Raelene and Brenda, Prue and Dilly Ramsbottom, Mavis and Lorna). Separate chapters, if you can call these clusters of character rants chapters, speak in the voice of the twins’ different invented personas, all of whom have their roots in our rather peculiar New Zealand psyche.

The photographs illustrate how, as with British comedians French and Saunders, costume and make-up have contributed hugely to the success of the “personality plus” twins. Every snap shows the entertainers to best scrubbed-up-well advantage. Some chapters come with recipes such as “Camp Mother’s Scone Recipe”, a pretty straightforward fail-safe set of instructions, but there are suitably risqué concoctions such as “Jellied Sandals” and “Ken Moller’s Pilau of Mutton”. Ken’s “Goddess”, a love poem to the elusive Pink Lady (Camp Mother), contains earth-moving stanzas such as:

Oh how I love you
You are my missing link
You’re a vision in my water trough
You’re my Goddess bathed in Pink.


Raelene’s and Brenda’s make-up tips to transform sheilahs from poxy to foxy is possibly the best-written health and beauty literature ever published, and the faux sluts give sound advice for travelling more than 500 metres: “Don’t yell at people if they slow down and then take off. They’re probably just trying to get a pattern off your outfit.” There are also farming quizzes, crosswords, brain stumpers, and small chapters displaying a choice selection of Camp Leader’s many cardies knitted by devoted fans and some of the more snazzy jump-suits worn so fetchingly by Camp Mother. The twins’ sexuality is waved aside as if it were no biggie, and there are loving and fond tributes to their parents and brother Bruce, who seem to have been a model family for lesbian twins born in rural New Zealand in the late 1950s.

But, of course, this is not a real attempt at autobiography, merely quite a slick piece of PR: “Jools & Lynda” are never Jools and Lynda. We know no more about these much-loved entertainers come the end than we did at the start. Who these now early-middle-aged women have and have had relationships with is never really explored, nor is the odd, almost Siamese nature of their own relationship. The Topp Twins Book is a light and jolly enough yodel but expect nothing deeper from these infamous untouchable girls.


Jane Bowron is a Wellington journalist.


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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review
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